In the midst of major shakeups within the network's executive end, MTV has pulled the fourth episode of MTV Wrestling Society X from next week's scheduled airing at 10:30 PM.
While the actual yanking of the episode was due to an issue with the MTV's standards and practices department, sources claim that the network is also trying to change their strategy moving forward, both with WSX and other first-run programming. A program titled "Scarred" will run next Tuesday in WSX's usual timeslot.
The pulled WSX episode was slated to feature the debut of IWA Puerto Rico star Ricky Banderas, during an angle where he would throw a fireball into WSX champion Vampiro's face. MTV initially approved the storyline and stunt when it was filmed during WSX's taping in Los Angeles. Once the network received and reviewed the episode, however, the decision was made to not allow it to air due to concerns over viewers possibly recreating the stunt. Since the fireball angle was one of the company's main storylines for the length of their episodes, the situation went back and forth within the network and has yet to be resolved, so the episode was pulled.
In a January interview with PWInsider.com, Wrestling Society X producer Kevin Klinerock discussed MTV's issues with producing a product that would feature violent stunts, commenting, "The biggest issue that standard and practices, and everyone at MTV has - and it's understandable. The concern is, 'How easy is it for some kid, some viewer, to replicate what they are seeing?' They don't want us swinging light tubes. Understood. An exploding casket, however, is not seen in the same light on the same scale of sheer violence of swinging a light tube; a kid's not going to be able to get an exploding casket in their backyard. That's their concern. It doesn't come from a sake of wanting or not wanting something to be seen on television, they have real series concerns. They've lived through a number of lawsuits from kids watching and imitating "Jacka**" and similar things, and it's just their set of standards that the entire network lives by. It doesn't matter if it's a wrestling show or "The Real World." It's just a standard of rules that everyone has to live by. "The standard [MTV uses] is how easy is it for someone to replicate it. That's what we have to look at when it comes to stunts and violence. It's not a whitewash WCW using cotton candy as weapons by any stretch of the imagination. It's definitely got your mix of extreme and your mix of entertaining in-ring high flying action. We give a little bit of each in each episode, the extreme violence and the excellent high flying technical in-ring wrestling. I think we accomplish that. Most episodes were laid out that way."
Additionally, MTV as a network is in a major state of flux at the moment with ratings for their original programming (including their top series, Two-A-Days) down across the board. In response, parent company Viacom has let go of over 250 employees in the last several days including several high ranking executives, with some given two week notices and other departments being completely shut down.
Among those fired, according to today's edition of entertainment trade publication The Hollywood Reporter was Paul DeBenedittis, who held the position of Executive Vice President of "multiplatform programming, content strategy and scheduling at MTV". DeBendittis was responsible for MTV's programming decisions, including placing WSX up against WWE's ECW on Sci Fi. MTV sources noted DeBenedittis was one of the major champions at the network for the series and had been involved with WWE's series at the network, including Tough Enough, during their tenure with MTV.
Sources claim the network is re-evaluating the programming currently airing on the network. Its possible that moving forward, WSX may be moved to another timeslot to get it away from the competition of ECW.
When asked whether the series was in danger of being canceled after garnering just a 0.5 rating this week with its third episode, WSX sources noted MTV had already paid for the production of the 10 filmed episodes and that it wouldn't make sense for the network to not air what they had already invested in. The hope is that once the shakeups within the network settle down, it will lead to a positive change overall for the series.
WSX sources indicate that Wrestling Society X is currently scheduled to return on Tuesday 2/27 at 10:30 PM (although that could conceivably change as things evolve from the standards and practices end of MTV). Independent listings, including TVGuide.com, currently back that claim.
PWInsider.com will have more on the state of MTV's Wrestling Society X as the story continues to develop.